You wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if you didn’t have vision, were afraid to take risks or prepared to let things stay the way they are. So why start now? The world may be in economic crisis, but one man’s problem is another man’s opportunity.
Whether business booming or you’re feeling the pinch just like everyone else, a small business owner should always be on the look-out for ways to improve his business. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking, so get out that notebook.
Back to basics: You may have to dig deep in your filing cabinet, but take a look at your original business plan. Remind yourself of your vision for the company and compare it to where you are now. What has changed or what needs to be changed?
Look ahead: No matter how bad yesterday was, today is a new day and an opportunity to start afresh. Don’t dwell on the mistakes or problems, but rather on what you learnt from the mistake and how you are going to solve the problem. Focus on today and you won’t waste precious time and energy cursing yesterday.
Ideas, ideas, ideas: Sit down in a quiet place or get your employees into the office and start brainstorming. List potential projects you could take on, ways to expand service offerings, how to re-energise the business, and so on. Do you need to take the business online or explore new markets? Then put together a strategy to put these thoughts into action.
Have a back-up plan: Work through potential worst case scenarios in various areas of your business and what you would do if it happened. Knowing what plan B is, could mean the difference between a technical glitch or a complete operational shutdown. "Crossing that bridge" when you get there is probably not the best expression for doing good business.
The customer knows best: Contact your customers and hear what they have to say about your business, the service they’re getting and what they would like to see. Don’t be afraid of negative comments either. These are often the best fertilizer for new ideas. Think about ways to encourage or reward customers for introducing you to new clients. Could you expand your customer base to include a different segment of the market, perhaps?
Where is the money going? Do you spend money only where it’s necessary? Are there ways you can save costs? This does not mean you have to start laying people off. There is more than one way to kill a cat and implementing the simplest measures at work can end up saving a good chunk of money.
Is cash coming in? Also look at where the money is coming from and how to keep cash flowing into the business. Ask your debtors for sureties that they are able to pay, shorten credit periods or hold less stock. Make sure there is always money in the bank.
Are your operations up to scratch? Look objectively at the way you are running your business. Are there areas for improvement? Maybe you’ve been cutting corners where you shouldn’t? Now is the time to get everything on track and above board. Any weakness can also be pinpointed and improved on. Get professional advice if necessary.
Measure your performance: If you haven’t already done so, set clear time-bound goals for each of your projects or tasks. Allocate time frames for when you will measure these to see if you are meeting your goals or if you need a contingency plan. Review your goals regularly and set new objectives once current targets have been achieved.
Check out the competition: Always know what your competitors are up to. Have they lowered their prices or introduced a new product line? Who knows, they might even be ways to work together so you both can stay afloat or concentrate on a specific section of the market.
Start looking after yourself: You are helping no one by burning out, so take the time to have some fun, spend quality time with your family or go on a much-deserved break. You’ll feel more creative and energized to face whatever comes your way!
We may not have listed all the possibilities for getting your business out of a rut, but these should get you going. It’s important to involve your employees in these kinds of strategy sessions, as they may have their own ideas and have just as much to gain (or lose).
Don’t get caught up in all the negative hype around how bad things are. With a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work, you can make sure you always come out on top. But then again, that’s what makes you an entrepreneur, isn’t it?